Gideon Haigh: T20’s influence cannot be quarantined

Haigh dwelt upon cricket’s governance, its commercial blind spots and the ‘influence’ of Twenty20, especially the Indian Premier League.

Talking about governance models in Australia and India, Gideon Haigh mentioned that Cricket Australia has embraced a top-down structure despite resistance from the State associations.   -  R. Ragu

Acclaimed cricket writer Gideon Haigh stressed that he did not detect “enough love for the game” from the sport’s administrators. During his visit to Sportstar's office here on Monday afternoon, Haigh dwelt upon cricket’s governance, its commercial blind spots and the ‘influence’ of Twenty20, especially the Indian Premier League.

 

Haigh, who is in India to promote the reprinted version of his maiden bookThe Cricket War, The Story of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket, said: “Yes we have had those feel-good stories from the IPL, like the one on Hardik Pandya in Sportstar, but these are not the administrators' priorities, their priority is to make money for themselves than for the players and these are the beneficial outcomes of such a priority. My main concern about Twenty20 is not about the game itself, it is a very dynamic format. But the problem is that it’s influence cannot be quarantined. It perhaps has bred the culture that anything that makes money can be justified. I just don’t feel that it is keeping a bargain with the public. It is fundamentally exploitative of the public and it is very cynical.”

Haigh pointed out that the monetary benefits for players through the IPL are a spin-off from the administrators’ obsession to make money for themselves. N. Ram, chairman, The Hindu Group of Publications, highlighted the case of Cheteshwar Pujara. “The tragic case of Pujara is that there is no demand for him in the IPL. He is a fine player but he has no takers in the auction unlike a T. Natarajan (picked by Kings XI Punjab for ₹3 crore).”

Talking about governance models in Australia and India, Haigh mentioned that Cricket Australia has embraced a top-down structure despite resistance from the State associations. And about the Indian set-up, he said: “When it comes to the BCCI, it seems as though no one is in control. There seems to be a diffused number of power bases and it looks as though the Supreme Court is forcing the administrators to jump through hoops. At the same time, with a change in personnel at the Supreme Court, it (the reform process) has been through multiple hands and, perhaps, the next chief justice may not have the same proprietary control over the Lodha reforms. Governance models are the creations of individuals and they are susceptible to the strong touch, be it in Australia, India or at the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board).”

Haigh, though, conceded that India’s initial reluctance to implement the Decision Review System (DRS) proved right in hindsight. “Perversely, India’s stand on the DRS has been vindicated because when it initially came in, it wasn’t completely fool-proof,” he said.

Earlier, in a panel discussion moderated by N. Ram at the Asian College of Journalism, Haigh drew a parallel between market forces in the Packer era to the one in vogue due to the profusion of T20 leagues. Haigh also emphasised the need to back five-day Tests and not to be cowed down by the dictates of broadcasting networks and their monetary muscle.